Suzuka, Japan

Nobuatsu Aoki On Retirement, Recovering From Cancer, Developing Suzuki's MotoGP Bike, And Teammate Jeremy McWilliams

Nobuatsu Aoki finished his road racing career as a rider at the 2022 Suzuka 8 Hours Race at the age of fifty. As the eldest of well-known Aoki three brothers, Nobu had already shown his potential in the All Japan Road Race Championship when he was a teenager back in the early 1990s. Soon after, he moved up to the 250cc grand prix class, and took an impressive victory in Malaysia in 1993. Then in 1997, he stepped up to the 500cc class to ride for Honda NSR500. He also experienced the dawn of the 4-stroke MotoGP era in Proton KR team before becoming a test rider for Suzuki.

Backed by rich experience, knowledge, and skill, his words are always full of deep insight. And his sense of humor adds a unique flavor to them. We spoke with Nobu for an hour-long interview at Suzuka Circuit on Thursday evening, the day before his last race weekend started.

Q: First of all, could you tell us a little bit about the reason why you have decided to retire from racing?

NA: The reason? Nothing but my age! Unfortunately, when you get old, your body doesn’t respond as it used to. Although I have always been training very hard, in my late 30s, I felt something changed in my body. Then, when you turned forty, that strange feeling started growing even more. For sure, I still think I am still young like a teenager. However, if you train hard like a teenager and ignore your age, you can very easily end up with an injury in training. You run very hard, you lift a heavy barbell like you used to do, then you pull your muscles or injure your joint!

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Steve English Suzuka 8 Hours Blog: The Best Team Won, But Was That The Right Result?

The 2019 Suzuka 8 Hours was the greatest race I’ve witnessed in the flesh. It was tremendous from start to was just the extra time that left a bitter aftertaste.

With only one lap remaining we had witnessed the greatest spectacle imaginable. Three teams - Kawasaki, Yamaha and Honda - had treated us to a feast of great racing. With the eight hour mark in sight we had seen twenty lead changes, and up until the final half hour all three teams were within 30 seconds of each other. Suzuka is always reckoned to be a series of sprint races wrapped up as an endurance outing but this race truly was just that.

It was unbelievable. Standing trackside I just wanted to get back inside to watch it on the TV and fully understand what was happening. If you believe that you’d believe anything. I was sweating so much in the heat that I was running dangerously low of bodily fluids but even in that state of reduced mental capacity I could see this was an all-time classic.

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Adapt and survive at Suzuka – How to win as a team

Ego is a crucial part of the successful makeup of any world class racer. They need to have the belief that they are faster than everyone else on the grid. That they can do things that no one else can. That they’re the man for the job. What happens though when you’re forced to check that ego at the garage door? Having that ability can be the difference between winning and losing in Endurance race.

Adapt and survive. It’s rule of law in the natural world but it’s also the only way to be successful in endurance racing. Being a team and working together is the key success at the Suzuka 8 Hours. If you’re Yamaha Factory Racing Team rider Michael van der Mark, you know this better than most.

The Dutch star might be a four-time Suzuka winner, a WorldSBK race winner, and a World Supersport champion but he’s also cast in an unusual role in Japan; the outlier.

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Suzuka 8 Hours Preview: The biggest New Year’s Party in Japan

“The Suzuka 8 Hours is draining,” explains Alex Lowes. “The starting grid ceremony, the hour long stint on the bike, the conditions. Nothing about it is easy but almost everything about the weekend is special. It’s an amazing feeling to have one of the biggest manufacturers in the world supporting you. When you’re on the bike for the final hour and come across the line to win the race, it’s an amazing feeling.”

The 28 year old WorldSBK star sits third in the championship and heads to Japan as the three-time defending winner. With an enviable record at the 8 Hours - which included leading the opening hour of his 2015 debut aboard a Suzuki - the lap record holder is out to win again. He also knows that winning the race could have a huge impact on the next step of his career.

Without a contract confirmed for 2020, Japanese New Year comes at the perfect time. The 8 Hours is the turning point of the calendar for Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki. This is the race that they want to win more than any other. It’s easy to underestimate the great Japanese race and think that MotoGP titles have taken preference for the manufacturers, but make no mistake this is still the centrepiece of their season.

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Suzuka 8 Hour Gallery - Steve English Shoots Practice

Suzuka is a race with a rich history and a full factory effort from Honda for the first time years is a real sign of the ever increasing importance of this race once again. Honda had trusted the efforts of supported teams in the past but now they're back and it's a full-fat Fireblade that's in action this weekend. It will take a lot to beat the Yamaha's but this is a good starting point

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Suzuka 8 Hours Preview - Everything Riding On Suzuka For The Japanese Factories

The Suzuka 8 Hours is the biggest single race on the motorcycle racing calendar. The final Sunday of July is circled on the calendars of racing presidents of the Japanese manufacturers because it's the day that careers are made or lost. It's the day that legends are born, and it's the day that the pressure is ramped right up on the racing bosses at Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki.

If you want to ensure your future, you need to prove your worth at Suzuka. The only way to guarantee good graces is with success. Honda has been chasing it in recent years, and after being on the receiving end of a Yamaha trouncing in recent years the pressure is higher than ever to win again.

That pressure manifests itself up and down the pit lane. Riders come off their bikes and look into the expectant faces of engineers who know their career aspirations are linked to Suzuka. Win here and you could get the chance to develop the next MotoGP machine. Lose and you could well be looking at the job ads on Monday.

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The Suzuka 8 Hour Yamaha R1 and the art of compromise: speed vs stamina over 220 laps

The day is done and the battle is won. Yamaha claimed their third consecutive Suzuka 8 Hours on Sunday. The victory put a stamp on their dominance of the one race each year that the Japanese manufacturers place more emphasis on than any other. We take a look at the Yamaha Factory Racing Team's YZF-R1.

It's often said that endurance racing is the last bastion of design and technological freedom in motor sport. Whether it was Audi's decision to use a diesel engine on four wheels or the current breed of two-wheeled endurance bike, it's clear that there is plenty of innovation on the grid.

At this weekend's Suzuka 8 Hours, the Yamaha Factory Racing Team fielded arguably the most advanced YZF-R1 on the planet. With open regulations for electronics, a tire war and plenty of scope for innovation in the rulebook, the machine raced by Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark is very different to their regular WorldSBK mount.

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Suzuka 8 Hours Interview: Michael van der Mark on winning for the third time in Japan

Michael van der Mark joined illustrious company by claiming a third Suzuka 8 Hours success

Michael van der Mark left Japan with a smile on his face, another victory and a reflective mood. The Suzuka 8 Hours winner knows how difficult it is to win the biggest single race of the year - he's done it three times.

There was a time when Suzuka was considered a hindrance on the racing calendar and it had lost its luster, but with 80,000 fans packing the grandstands this year it was clear that the revival of the race, which began in 2015, has returned it to prominence. For the victor it was a special day, not only because of the win but also because he remembers the heartbreak of losing there for the last two years.

“This race is such a big event that it takes a long time for the result to sink in,” said Van der Mark. “It's been a few years since I won and it's great to be back on the top step of the podium. I've been so lucky to win this race three times now and it's amazing. This race can give you such a good feeling, but I think that it's only when you win that you really feel that.

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